THE EAST Jackson basketball teams are gearing up for a hoops rivalry gauntlet this weekend.
The Eagles and Lady Eagles host nearby Jefferson Friday and then make the short trip to sister school Jackson County Saturday.
“This weekend will be a lot of fun and we should have big crowds at both places,” East Jackson boys’ coach Brian Turner said. “I know the kids are looking forward to it and we are going to prepare as best we can for both games throughout the week.”
East Jackson girls’ coach Katie David points to the subregion implications for her team. The Lady Eagles (3-11) are 1-2 in subregion play and could get above .500 with a pair of big wins.
“We are excited about the upcoming weekend, preparing for Jefferson and Jackson,” David said. “I look at it as any region game and try not to the let the ‘rivalry’ get too much emphasis. We are focusing on improving things that we can control.”
The Jefferson girls need a big weekend, too, as the Lady Dragons (7-9, 1-4) currently sit behind East Jackson in the subregion standings.
“It will be a big game on many fronts as far as the subregion,” Jefferson girls’ coach Jason Gibson said.
Jefferson swept the Lady Eagles last year, beating them 49-39 and then 29-26 in back-to-back games. Gibson points to the competitiveness of this series.
“I really do think these games are filled with so much emotion that you really don’t know what’s going to happen,” Gibson said.
The East Jackson-Jackson County girls game the following Saturday will pit two well-acquainted teams against each other. These squads even practiced together once this past summer.
Jackson County coach John Hawley expects that his will be an emotional game, but at the same time, said his team sees the bigger picture.
“This is one we need to get ourselves back (up) in the league standings and round us out at 4-2, so that’s our major focus,” said Hawley, whose team is coming off a tough loss Friday at Elbert County.
As for the boys’ side of things, East Jackson is 4-10 overall and 0-3 in subregion play. The Eagles, too, would love to use this rivalry weekend to get back in the subregion race.
“It is not just a big weekend because of the in-county rivalry but these are two big sub-region games,” Turner said. “We have played tough in our other three and do not have anything to really show for it, so both of these games are important as we need to get going on the right track to position ourselves for the region tournament.”
Jefferson swept the Eagles last year while Jackson County split with them. Turner expects both the Dragons and Panthers to be very well prepared this weekend.
“Both teams each night will play extremely hard and it will come down to who makes the fewest mistakes,” Turner said. “I know our record does not show but I feel we are on the right track with young kids and hopefully this will be the week it all comes together.”
Though Jefferson (9-7, 4-1) swept East Jackson last year, the Dragons had to win both an overtime game and at the buzzer to do it.
Jefferson coach Bolling DuBose said playing East Jackson or Jackson County is similar to Jefferson’s rivalry with Commerce and expects another four-quarter battle Friday with the Eagles.
“I wouldn’t expect anything other than a close game Friday,” DuBose said. “It will be a fun game and obviously it’s a big game because it’s a subregion game.”
Likewise, Jackson County coach Britt Beaver — whose team is 4-11 overall and 1-4 in subregion play – said motivation shouldn’t be a problem heading into Saturday night’s game given what’s at stake and how well Jackson County and East Jackson know each other.
“That should take care of itself,” Beaver said.
Still, Beaver said this is a very friendly rivalry between the Panthers and Eagles.
“Both teams really respect each other, and it’s just a good rivalry,” Beaver said.